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17th century image of a person playing the hautboy

Alternative formsEdit


From French hautbois. Doublet of oboe and hautbois.



hautboy (plural hautboys)

  1. (dated, music) An oboe or similar treble double reed instrument.
    • c. 1597, William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 2, Act III, Scene 2,[1]
      I [] told John a Gaunt he beat his own name; for you might have thrust him and all his apparel into an eel-skin; the case of a treble hautboy was a mansion for him, a court []
    • 1694, uncredited translator, The Voyage into Spitzbergen and Greenland by Friderich Martens in An Account of Several Late Voyages & Discoveries to the South and North, London: Sam Smith and Benjamin Walford, Chapter 1, p. 12,[2]
      When after this manner any have lost their Ships, and cannot be seen, they discharge a Cannon from the Ship, or sound the Trumpets, or Haut-boys, according as they are provided in their Ships, that the men that are lost may find their Ship again.
    • 1788, Charles Dibdin, The Musical Tour of Mr. Dibdin, Sheffield: for the author, Letter 48, p. 197,[3]
      [] even in a hautboy song, or any other where a particular instrument may have an obligato accompaniment, the voice ought to be every where assisted, but no where eclipsed.
    • 1816, William Hazlitt, “Theatrical Debuts,” The Examiner, 20 October, 1816, in A. R. Waller and Arnold Glover (eds.), The Collected Works of William Hazlitt, London: J.M. Dent, 1903, p. 341,[4]
      The notes proceed from her mouth as mechanically, as unmitigated by the sentiment, as if they came from the sharp hautboy or grating bassoon.
    • 1878, Thomas Hardy, The Return of the Native, London: Smith, Elder, Volume 3, Chapter 7, p. 69,[5]
      “Well, this is a bad night altogether for them that have done well in their time; and if I were ever such a dab at the hautboy or tenor-viol, I shouldn’t have the heart to play tunes upon ’em now.”
  2. (music) A reed stop on an organ giving a similar sound.
  3. A tall-growing strawberry, Fragaria elatior, having a musky flavour.
    • 1766, Tobias Smollett, Travels through France and Italy, London: R. Baldwin, Volume 1, Letter 19, pp. 304-305,[6]
      In May we have strawberries, which continue in season two or three months. These are of the wood kind; very grateful, and of a good flavour; but the scarlets and hautboys are not known at Nice.
    • 1815, Jane Austen, Emma, Volume 2, Chapter 6,[7]
      “The best fruit in England—every body’s favourite—always wholesome.—These the finest beds and finest sorts. [] every sort good—hautboy infinitely superior—no comparison—the others hardly eatable—hautboys very scarce []

Derived termsEdit